Australia Women’s co-captain Demi Hayes believes the squad is in a better place to deal with the pressures of a Commonwealth Games four years on as they prepare for Birmingham.
Hayes is one of few in the squad with experience, a fresh-faced 19-year-old thrust onto one of the biggest stages as Australia went down to New Zealand in the gold medal match on the Gold Coast in 2018.
This was followed by a disappointing Tokyo campaign, with defeats to USA and Fiji residing the defending champions to fifth position.
However, the Australians have enjoyed a dominant build-up, winning the World Series before an under-strength side finished second at the Oceania Sevens.
Comparatively, defending champions New Zealand managed just two events on the circuit as they dealt with COVID restrictions whilst Fiji missed the Spain legs before struggling in Langford.
Hayes is confident this has the side in a perfect position to secure their maiden gold as they continue to strive to get better.
“I was only new so how I was experienced in 2018 is so different than where I am now,” Hayes reflected to Rugby.com.au.
“How much emphasis has gone on training in the last 12 months has been really important so from a mental and physical point of view, we’re definitely ready.
“I think it will take it to another level. Securing the World Series was a massive one for us but the Olympics wasn’t the result we wanted so getting the gold here will be an awesome achievement.
“We want to keep moving forward. We want to best we can be as a group so that’s important we cement that…around COVID we weren’t actually able to play much (before Olympics) so having the World Series back and consistent games, being able to play Oceania and internal games, as much as we can play to implement what we want to do for a tournament like the Comm Games is really important.”
Hayes along with fellow co-captain Charlotte Caslick and Sharni Williams are looking to impart their wisdom to the younger players, preparing them for village life and the expectations and pressure surrounding one of the biggest multi-sports events in the world.
“It’s only fond memories except for that final and losing the gold medal in extra time,” she believes.
“The athlete village and the whole atmosphere was really cool and to be able to take a whole lot of girls over to Birmingham to experience that side of things will be really cool.
“We’re trying to help some of the younger players if possible and that’s really important for us leaders to be able to perform at such a high level.”
After the highs of the World Series, Hayes stressed the importance of the squad refocusing as they build for an important period, with the Rugby Sevens World Cup slated for September.
“That’s what we’ve been trying to do over the past few weeks. We’ve had a refresher away from training and we know we have plenty of work to do,” the co-captain reinforced.
“We have Comm Games and World Cup after that so everyone is refocusing knowing how much work we have to do.
“There’s a healthy competition going back to the 14th-18th player who definitely wants to make that squad and are pushing our top girls which only makes us and the squad better.”
With thanks Rugby Australia.